Interrogative Pronouns

What are Interrogative Pronouns ?

Interrogative Pronouns are used for asking questions.

They are similar in form to relative pronouns. But the work which they do is different.

E.g. who/whom/which/what/whose

Concept 1

When interrogative form of a sentence starts with ‘wh’ family, helping verb comes before the subject.

Who are you looking for? (are – helping verb; you - subject)
What do you know? (do – helping verb; you - subject)
Which one do you want?

Concept 2

Interrogative Pronouns are also used to ask indirect questions.

Here ‘wh’ family word is used to join two sentences, and an assertive form of sentence follows the ‘wh’ family word.

I do not know who drew this graffiti.

Tell me what package you want.

Here helping verb is used after the subject.

I don’t know who are you. (incorrect)
I don’t know who you are. (correct; you – subject; are – helping verb)

Who, Whom and Whose

Forms of who: who and whom

  • who - can be used as subject, object or subject + object

    Who wants to come? (who – subject, i.e. in subjective case)
    Who did you go with? (who – object, i.e. in objective case)
    Who did you say won the match? (who – object of the whole sentence; however it works as the subject for the verb won; ‘you’ is the subject of the verb say and the subject of the whole sentence too)

  • whom - can only be used as object

    With whom did you go? (whom - object)

Nowadays the ‘objective who’ is more commonly used than ‘whom’ (especially in spoken English).
  • whose - always in possessive case

    Whose bike is that? (whose – possessive case)

What and Which

What and Which – they do not have different forms for different cases.

They can be used as subject and object.

What is that? (what – subject)
What are you looking for? (what – object)

Which is she? (which – subject)
Which do you prefer? (which – object)

Uses of Interrogative Pronouns

Use Case 1

Who, Whom, and Whose are used only for persons.

Who was hurt? (the answer is expected to be the name of some person.)
Whom did you see?
Whose is this kite?

So, ‘Whose’ cannot be used for non-living things.

This is a new element whose discovery was done by Martin Klaproth. (incorrect)
This is a new element, the discovery of which was done by Martin Klaproth. (correct)

Use Case 2: Uses of Whose

‘Whose’ is used to find out the owner.

Whose bike is this?

Use Case 3: Whom and Who with a preposition

Whom and Who with a preposition:

We use ‘preposition + whom’ and not ‘preposition + who’.

Pattern: Preposition + whom …..?

By who was the Da Vinci Code written? (incorrect)
By whom was the Da Vinci Code written? (correct)

If preposition is used at the end of the sentence, ‘who’ comes at the starting of the sentence.

Pattern: Who + ….. + Preposition …..?

Who was the Da Vinci Code written by?

Use Case 4: Uses of Which

Which is used in case of both persons and things. It implies selection from a limited number of items.

Which of you has broken this chair? (which used for person)
Which of these keys is yours? (which used for thing)

If a choice is to be made between two or more, which is used.

Who is your son in the team? (incorrect)
Which is your son in the team? (correct)

Use Case 5: Uses of What

Concept 1: Used only for things

What is used for things only.

What have you found? (the answer is expected to be the name of some thing.)
What was it all about?
What do you want?
What did you say?

Concept 2

What ….. is/am/are/was/were ….. + Noun/Pronoun? (it means the profession/employment is being enquired, and not the person)

What are you? … I am an engineer.
What is he? … He is an architect.

Nowadays these are more common then the above:
What do you do?
What does he do?
When we use ‘Who’, it means we are enquiring about the name and family of the person.
Who is he? … He is Mr. Ratan Tata.

Compound Interrogative Pronouns

Compound Interrogative Pronouns – e.g. whoever, whatever, whichever.

Whatever are you doing?
Whoever told you so?

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